On April 8, 1975, Major League Baseball history was made when the first African-American manager made his debut. One of baseball’s last player-managers, he was also in the lineup that day for the Cleveland Indians and provided his team with a memorable home run. First appearing in the classic 1957 Topps set, Frank Robinson baseball cards tell the tale of one of the most memorable non-stop careers in big league history.
Active in baseball for the better part of 50 years, Robinson’s non-stop career included a Rookie of the Year, two MVP awards, numerous All Star appearances, a Triple Crown and two World Series championships.
Perhaps his greatest achievement was that he was the first to break those barriers as a MLB skipper. Still active at age 79, Robinson became the senior adviser to Commissioner Rob Manfred in February. The post for the Hall of Fame player and former manager is just one of the many times Robinson has chosen to stay in the game in one fashion or another.
As a player, his 21 season stint in the bigs certainly was impressive by any standard. Robinson was never an easy out, with a career .294 average. He compiled 586 home runs and 1,812 RBIs during his career and was the first player to win Most Valuable Player awards in both leagues.
Because of those accomplishments, Robinson was a no doubt Hall of Fame entry-garnering 89.2% of the vote in 1982 as a first ballot choice. Time Magazine gives Robinson credit for coining a phrase you just might be familiar with back in 1973: “Close don’t count in baseball. Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.”
Maybe that applies to the condition of his baseball cards, too. His rookie card is the 1957 Topps and it’s been fairly elusive in high grade. PSA has graded rated only 19 of more than 3,000 it has seen as unqualified mint 9s. No 10s exist. SGC has given only four of the nearly 500 Robinson rookie cards it has graded a score of 96.
While his high-grade rookie cards can sell for thousands, Robinson cards are a veritable bargain compared to the likes of Mickey Mantle. The 1957 Topps Robinson card in a NM-MT 8 holder usually brings $2,500 and up with NM 7 examples available for under $600, or roughly three times less that what you’d expect to pay for a Mantle in similar grade.
Although the ’57 Topps card is considered his rookie, Robinson was also on a very rare 1956 Kahn’s Wieners card issued in the Cincinnati area. Only 11 of that true rookie card have ever been seen by PSA graders.
Robinson’s ‘card career’ spans portions of three decades, ending with the 1975 Topps issue (although he appears on the 1976 Indians team card and the 1976 Towne Club disc set). He appears in numerous subsets, insert sets, food and regional issues throughout his career including the popular Bazooka and Post Cereal issues. An extensive list from all of his card playing days can be found on PSA’s Set Registry.
You can see a live list of ‘most watched’ Frank Robinson baseball cards on eBay below.